The launch of Crio Bru’s K-cups earlier this spring “is definitely a good way to introduce people to brewing cocoa,” which is made from roasted, ground cocoa beans and has the consistency and complexity of coffee but with the familiar, heavy aromas of chocolate, Eric Durtshi, CEO of Crio Bru, said at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City in late June.
He explained that brewing cocoa, a category that he helped develop by creating patented processes for roasting and grinding cocoa beans in such a way that the cocoa butter does not melt, can easily be made in a French press, espresso machine or in an automatic drip coffee machine with a reusable filter, but the K-cups only take 45 seconds and a push of a button – making it a format that lowers the stakes for initial trail.
Unfortunately, he acknowledged, it also brews the cocoa “a little bit lighter than I personally prefer,” as is also the case with regular coffee in K-cups. Still, he added, “a lot of people have been enjoying that, so if K-cups are your thing, we now have an option for that now.”
A healthy option
The health benefits of Crio Bru remain the same no matter the method for brewing the cocoa, which the company says delivers 200% more antioxidants than pure pomegranate juice, and is packed with vitamins and minerals.
In addition, brewing cocoa has “an amazing stimulant from theobromine,” which increases blood flow to create a natural energy, while at the same time calming and relaxing people, Durtschi said. He added that because the beverage is low in caffeine it is safe for children and elderly consumers.
Brewing cocoa also is milder than coffee and has a slightly sweet taste, even though there is no sugar in it, Durtschi adds. This means consumers who typically add cream and sugar to their coffee could forgo the additions for a healthier alternative.
Because the beverage has an indulgent taste and association, it also can be a healthy alternative to sweets for people who are trying to cut back on sugar, Durtschi said, noting this benefit has significant appeal to consumers following the Whole 30 diet.
Staying ahead of the competition
In the last few years, several competitors have entered the cocoa brewing category, but Durtschi says he is not worried. Rather, he welcomes the new players as a way to increase visibility for the category overall – a significant challenge with which the company has grappled.
Durtschi noted he has aggressively sampled brewing cocoa at stores and events, but that this strategy can become expensive. With this in mind, he is currently testing online marketing strategies to help raise awareness of the category and keep Crio Bru at the top.
Crio Bru also is staying ahead of the competition through innovative new flavors. It launched at the Fancy Foods Show its newest brewed cocoa flavor – Chuno from Nicaragua. The launch compliments other flavors from beans sourced from Venezuela, Ghana, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, Durtschi said.
In addition, Durtschi said he is working on new fermentation technologies that will increase even further the antioxidants in brewing cocoa – a move that he hopes will help keep Crio Bru one step ahead of emerging competition in the category.
Ready to scale
Another characteristic that sets Crio Bru apart from the pack, is it can quickly scale up to meet demand as more retailers add the beverage to their shelves.
“I have access to lots of beans and some of them are very high end, very limited edition so we can have our private reserve, but a few of those specifically are varieties and plantations in regions that allow me to produce 10 times the volume right now, if I needed to,” Durtschi said.
Likewise, he is developing new grinding techniques that will help him keep costs down and produce finished product much faster, he said.
Finally, the company is opening a new facility in Santa Barbara, Calif., “so it is a good time for us to grow,” he said, adding the company anticipates “aggressive growth” based on new commitments that should push sales towards a projected $15 million in sales next year compared to $5-7 million at the end of this year.